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Habitat Hero Awards: School Garden & Professional Landscapes

Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day. 

Take a Virtual “Tour” of Inspiring Professional Landscapes & a School Garden

Read on for a virtual "tour" of the landscapes designed by horticultural professionals from this year's Habitat Hero Awards, plus a growing schoolyard garden. Unlike the public parks and trails, these gardens aren't open to the public. Still, they’re full of ideas to inspire your own wildscapes and habitat gardens!

Pinedale Elementary, Rapid City, SD–Outstanding School Garden

Center court before planting

The National Wildlife Federation's Schoolyard Habitat program spurred this elementary school to reclaim unused space in their central courtyard for ecosystem gardens.

Prairie meadow garden three months later

With advice from a Habitat-Hero-Award-winning master gardener from the community, the school designed three native-plant gardens that reflect the surrounding landscape: prairie meadow, badlands, and Black Hills forest.

Unused lawn before Black Hills forest was planted

"Kindergarten through fifth grade students helped plan, plant and manage these environments. Every native plant was selected either for its ability to provide food, shelter and a place to raise young for local bird species, or ... restoring habitat to our pollinators." The gardens also save water, and teach kids and parents the importance of using tough and resilient natives for their own gardens.

Black Hills forest garden three months later

Because the courtyard and its gardens are visible from every hallway in the school, kids can observe the habitats and their wildlife as they walk from class to class, making it a living laboratory.

Pinedale Heath Aster with bee gathering pollen

"Lessons come alive as we step out to observe the sunflower heads and asters covered in different types of bees, legs laden with pollen, busy at work."

 Hayward Yard, Masonville, CO—Outstanding Landscape

May in the Hayward's "tinaja" or waterhole garden

"Why wildscape?" writes Pat Hayward about the extensive habitat gardens she and her husband Joel have created on their nearly four-acre property in the foothills above Fort Collins. "It’s like asking why we breathe. It’s the right thing to do, it’s social, it’s fun, it’s mysterious, it’s educational and it’s fun to share."

Allium and sunflowers, a beautiful contrast of blue and gold

The Haywards--she's a horticulturist and he's a biologist--chose the hundreds of kinds of plants they planted for beauty in all seasons, durability in Colorado's challenging weather, and value for wildlife, whether food, shelter or nesting/denning.

Another view of the tinaja garden

Most of their plants are Plant Select® varieties, not just because Pat is Executive Director of the program; because the Hayward's harsh site demanded resilient plants that would survive with little supplemental water in full sun.

A hummingbird drinks at a Hesperaloe with pink Rocky Mountain Beeplant (Cleome serrulata) and Agastache nearby

The Haywards welcome wildlife of all sorts, whether the hummingbirds, bumblebees, tadpoles and orioles that are easy to love, or the skunks, snakes, and song-bird-eating Cooper's Hawks. Except mule deer, which are fenced out of the main yard area, but have full run of the rest of the acreage.

A natural garden of mostly native species transitions to the "wild" portion of their acreage.

Peacock Yard, Lakewood, CO

A prairie-like swath of lawn with woodland edges

In just four years, landscape designer Marie Peacock transformed a neglected 1960s suburban yard into a water-saving oasis for wildlife, replacing bindweed, scruffy patches of lawn and aging Pfizer junipers with two very different habitats, front and back, picking plants suitable to the very different exposures with an emphasis on long blooming time.

A berm and dry stream bed give character to the xeric front yard.

The front yard, a sloping and sunny exposure, features a berm and dry stream bed, plus xeric plants that provide food for hummingbirds and pollinators.

Cascading water feature and "wild" edges

The back, which slopes uphill to an irrigation ditch, features a cascading water feature that Peacock admits "had a mind of its own and became larger than life." In that more well-watered site, Peacock used native and regionally adapted plants to create woodland edges with a prairie-like lawn in the middle.

Coyote hunting in the back yard

Wildlife attracted to the habitat corridor along the irrigation ditch frequent the habitat in Peacock's yard, including the coyote pair that raised a family in a den nearby!

Tatroe Yard, Centennial, CO—Outstanding Wildlife Garden

Diverse kinds of plants make for beauty and diverse habitat.

When Marcia Tatroe and her husband moved to their covenant-controlled community in 1987, their neighborhood, "an island of 1200 homes with fields on three sides," supported "all of the usual critters that manage to live in such a place" along with several varieties of snakes. As housing developments took over the fields, Tatroe "watched in horror as wildlife gradually disappeared."

Two of Tatroe's whimsical birdhouses (note the wren perched on the right-hand one)

So Tatroe set out to provide habitat in her quarter-acre lot. After receiving a variance to eliminate the bluegrass lawn, she began a cottage-garden-style wildscape that now takes up every inch of the lot beyond the house. "I hope to provide an... example in my community to demonstrate it is possible to share a garden with the creatures that were here before my home was built on top of theirs."

A garden that invites wildlife and people

Tatroe's garden includes over 2,000 taxa of plants, many native, and is entirely organic, involving no pesticides at all. "Insects are food for the birds and other critters I’m trying to attract."

Tatroe's "messy" garden in winter, with last year's stalks left for food and shelter.

Her design alternates open areas with shade and shrubby areas for maximum diversity of habitat, and includes woodpiles and brush piles for shelter, and different types of water, including basins and birdbaths.

A Northern Flicker finds a perch on a garden sculpture in winter

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Congratulations to the 2014 Habitat Heroes! Thank you for helping grow a network of habitat for wildlife in the Rocky Mountain region.

Join Audubon RockiesPlant Select® and High Country Gardens in promoting wildscaping. Be a Habitat Hero.

How you can help, right now